TIME Burger King

Burger King Considers Rolling Out Vegetarian Options

Burger King Said To Be In Talks Of Sale Of Company
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Herbivores might have more options soon

Vegetarians at Burger Kings in the United States and many other markets currently have one main meal option: a Morning Star Veggie Burger. But herbivores might have more options soon, as Burger King considers rolling out its Indian vegetarian menu options in other markets.

Since India’s population leans vegetarian, the fast food joint offers six vegetarian sandwiches in the country, according to Quartz. Options on the Burger King India menu include: a Veg Chilli Cheese Melt, a vegetarian Whopper, Crispy Veg, Spicy Bean Royale, Paneer King Melt, and the BK Veggie. There are also vegetarian sides such as Veggie Strips, which look like mozzarella sticks stuffed with vegetables instead of cheese, and spicy onion rings called Fiery Rings.

“Looking at the response here, the global management is evaluating introducing some of these options going forward to other vegetarian-friendly markets like the UK,” Raj Varman, Burger King India’s CEO, told PTI.

Burger King isn’t the only fast food restaurant to realize tastes are changing. Wendy’s recently tested a black bean veggie burger in select Ohio stores that received rave reviews.

MONEY Food & Drink

Chicken Fight! Fast Food Competitors Cook Up a Golden Age for Chicken

Winner winner chicken dinner.

In the competition for fast food customer dollars, an epic game of chicken is being played, and no one dares chickening out. The steaks—er, stakes—are just too high. (Sorry, had to get those bad puns out of the way pronto.)

The battles are being waged with high-profile marketing campaigns—see the big health push by Boston Market to promote its classic rotisserie chicken, and the return of Colonel Sanders for KFC. And the chicken wars are being waged with a dizzying number of new chicken items hitting restaurant menus. Chicken isn’t being limited to lunch and dinner, but it’s been added to breakfast menus as well, what with Taco Bell’s chicken-biscuit taco and nearly half of what’s featured at Chick-fil-A during the morning hours.

So many new chicken sandwiches have flooded the market that we decided to have an office taste-a-thon, featuring low-cost options from two stalwart fast-food players (Wendy’s crispy dill chicken sandwich, White Castle Sriracha chicken slider) alongside a casual dining chain’s tweak on a favorite item (Olive Garden’s chicken parm breadsticks sandwich), plus a celebrity chef’s much-hyped quick-serve fried chicken offering (David Chang’s Fuku in Manhattan). We would have loved to have also included the forthcoming chicken offshoot from Shake Shack, the fast-casual favorite created by Danny Meyer, but nothing’s available for tasting yet. In any event, watch the video above to check out the rather surprising results of the tastings for yourself.

Why has chicken become such a hot menu item? Part of the explanation is that chicken is so pliable. It takes on almost any flavor, from orange to lemon, garlic chile to tangy barbecue. It resonates with different demographics based not only on taste, but on how it can be sliced, chopped, and molded into shapes—nuggets, popcorn, dinosaurs, strips, fingers, fries, and beyond.

While the bird flu outbreak of 2015 has caused egg prices to soar, the impact on the chicken supply for restaurants has been mild. The result is that chicken prices today are cheap compared with beef, as they have been for years.

Chicken is a household staple because it’s affordable—exhibit A is the immensely popular $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco—and also because it’s perceived to be healthier than most other meats. That often goes even for chicken when it’s fried.

“Fried chicken is really a great base to work with,” Elizabeth Friend, senior analyst with the market research firm Euromonitor International, told QSR Magazine. “It’s salty, crunchy, indulgent, but still a protein that, while not exactly healthful, people feel is a better way to go than beef.”

All of the above explains why restaurants are so hot on chicken, and why chicken could one day push the burger aside for fast food supremacy. It sure looks like that’s where things are headed. Data cited by CNBC shows that America’s top 500 restaurant chains added 55 chicken items in January and February 2015, compared with just 33 new burgers, and that chicken purchases at fast food restaurants were up 3% for the 12-month period ending in March, compared with a rise of 1% for burger sales.

The shift to chicken over beef is even more pronounced when we incorporate cooking and dining at home, and when the numbers are viewed over the course of decades. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans are projected to eat 90 pounds of chicken per capita in 2015, up from 35 to 40 pounds in the late 1960s and 50 pounds in the mid-’80s. Beef has been on the opposite course, meanwhile, with per capita consumption projected at 54 pounds this year, down from 70 to 80 pounds through most of the ’70s and ’80s.

Read next: The Demise of ‘Satisfries’ and the Sad History of Healthy Fast Food

TIME Fast Food

The Surprising Reason Wendy’s Is Making a Beefless Burger

Workers In Fast Food Industry Begin Efforts To Unionize Jobs
Spencer Platt—Getty Images A Wendy's sign hangs as protesters, many of them employees at Wendy's fast-food restaurant, demonstrate outside of one of the restaurants to demand higher pay and the right to form a union on November 29, 2012 in New York City.

The beef is definitely not here

A burger without beef? The thought is surely sacrilegious to most Americans.

But Wendy’s is no longer catering to just its home country. With the opening of its first store in Gurgaon, India earlier this month, the company has had to rethink its attachment to the meat that made it famous.

According to a report in Ad Age, Wendy’s is rolling out a menu featuring “spicy aloo crunch burgers and buns sprinkled with chili, turmeric and coriander,” but no beef. That’s because in India, where Hindu is the majority religion, the cow is considered sacred.

Other fast food chains, like McDonald’s, also offer beefless menus, but Wendy’s is differentiating itself in other ways.

According to Ad Age:

Wendy’s debut outpost in Gurgaon, just southwest of New Delhi, has less of a fast food feel and more of a casual dining atmosphere, though prices remain low . . . Meals are served at the table, on proper china plates.

 

 

TIME Fast Food

McDonald’s Is Making 2 Big Changes to Its Burgers

McDonalds Campaign
Gene J. Puskar—AP A McDonald's Big Mac sandwich at a McDonald's restaurant in Robinson Township, Pa. on Jan. 21, 2014.

The fast food chain is changing things up to boost sales

McDonald’s believes it has the solution to declining sales —and it starts with warmer buns.

The world’s largest fast-food chain is “recommitting to hotter, tastier food,” said CEO Steve Easterbrook, who launched a new strategic turnaround plan earlier this month.

To make that happen, McDonald’s will now toast its burger buns 5 seconds longer, thus making the bread 15 degrees warmer. It will also bring the heat to its burger patties. The chain will change the way it sears and grills its beef so it’s juicier, though the company didn’t elaborate on the details.

Easterbrook, who took the helm in March after the former CEO stepped down, believes that every little bit counts and sums up “to a big difference for our customers,” he said at a conference Wednesday morning, according to Buzzfeed.

READ MORE: Can McDonald’s get its mojo back?

This isn’t the first time McDonald’s has futzed with its toasting levels. In the 1990s, the chain gave up toasting its buns altogether in exchange for efficiency, but the quality decline didn’t go over so well. By 1997, McDonald’s changed its mind and required new stores to install toasting equipment at a cost of about $7,000 per location.

TIME Food & Drink

6 Best Cheeses for Burgers

Getty Images

Go beyond cheddar

As chefs Michael Chiarello and Sang Yoon discuss in their Chefs in Conversation video, there are a lot of ways to screw up a burger. One way to make sure you’re treating a burger right is to top it with really great cheese. Here, the six best cheeses for burgers.

Cheddar
Perhaps the most popular option behind American cheese, salty cheddar holds up to strong flavors like the barbecue sauce on these incredible chicken burgers or the bacon and Russian dressing on these BLT burgers.

Brie
Ultra-gooey, creamy Brie takes any burger to the next, luxe level. Try it melted on top of these bacon burgers or stuffed into these scallion-flecked burgers.

Goat Cheese
Tangy goat cheese is a lighter choice for cheese. It’s great on these salty, sweet, piquant green-chile bacon burgers or these simple but super-filling double-decker burgers.

Smoked Gouda
Smoked Gouda and smoky barbecue sauce are a perfect match. Try the pairing on these messy burgers from Slows Bar-B-Q. It’s also a perfect complement to spicy horseradish on these flavorful turkey burgers.

Monterey Jack
This is one of the best cheeses for melting, which makes it perfect for a super-gooey cheese sauce like the one on Bobby Flay’s nacho burgers. Thanks to its mild flavor, Monterey Jack can also handle bold Italian flavors like those in Michael Symon’s 50/50 burgers made with hot Italian sausage and ground chuck.

Stilton
Pungent, salty and stinky, Stilton is for real cheese lovers and big, bold burgers like these topped with an insanely good port reduction. Or try it in small doses, like on these mini cheeseburgers topped with onion jam.

This article originally appeared on Food & Wine.

More from Food & Wine:

TIME Fast Food

Here’s How McDonald’s Became the King of Burgers

Signs are posted on the exterior of a McDonald's restaurant on April 22, 2015 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Signs are posted on the exterior of a McDonald's restaurant on April 22, 2015 in San Francisco.

As the iconic burger chain turns 75, it faces some of its biggest challenges ever

It is in no way surprising that McDonald’s recent troubles have drawn so much media attention. It’s not just because it’s a huge company, it’s because it is one of a small handful of corporations that are closely associated with the idea America itself, part of our national identity. And that has been the case for most of McDonald’s 75-year history.

There are many reasons for this, but the chief one might have been expressed best by the quotation TIME chose to open its September 17, 1973 cover story on McDonald’s: “The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they nourish themselves.” The quote came from The Physiology of Taste, written in 1826 by Jean Brillat-Savarin.

 McDonald's 1973
TIME

The cover story was titled “The Burger That Conquered the Country.” At the time—and for decades thereafter—nobody could seriously argue the title’s point. McDonald’s has faced stiff competition all along, from Burger King, from Wendy’s, from Taco Bell, and from any number of other fast-food chains. But none of those competitors ever came close to McDonald’s, especially in terms of image. McDonald’s—even now, when it faces some of its greatest challenges ever—is America’s burger joint.

In the 1973 article (in which McDonald’s main product is rather quaintly referred to as a “ham burger”—two words), TIME declared that if Brillat-Savarin’s quote was correct, “America’s destiny manifestly depends to no small degree on the ham burgers, French fries and milkshakes served beneath the golden arches of McDonald’s.”

Though it would grow much, much larger in the years ahead, McDonald’s was by 1973 a fully realized entity. It employed 130,000 employees in nine countries, and operated 2,500 outlets in the United States. And although Time declared that it “gone from a uniquely American to a truly global operation,” its image remained fully American, as it still does 42 years later—for better and, in some respects, worse.

Our destiny since then has manifested itself largely in our waistlines, a concern that in 1973 was just starting to creep into the national dialogue. The company most often cited by health-conscious critics of our food economy is, of course, McDonald’s. Our economic destiny meanwhile has in recent years manifested itself in the form of a growing wealth gap, with low-wage retail jobs taking the place of vanishing, high-wage manufacturing jobs. The company most-often cited in discussions of this problem (along with Wal-Mart) is, again, McDonald’s.

In the past few years, these trends have hit critical mass, to McDonald’s detriment. Consumer tastes for quick meals remained static for decades. Now they’re changing. Largely motivated by health concerns, but also by the desire for higher-quality eats, diners are increasingly opting for “fast-casual” outlets like Chipotle and Panera Bread. In response, McDonald’s is grasping for solutions that might not exist.

MORE These Are the States With the Most McDonald’s

At the same time, the company is facing pressure on the labor front. In 1973, most of its employees were teenagers working as burger flippers and “window girls.” Now, most of it workers are adults, many of them trying to support families. Last month, the company said it was raising wages and increasing benefits, though that applies only to employees of company-owned outlets, not to franchisees, meaning that most McDonald’s workers aren’t affected.

Officially, McDonald’s traces its history only back to 1955, when businessman Ray Kroc joined the company as a franchise agent. But the first McDonald’s (“McDonald’s Barbecue Restaurant”) actually opened on May 15, 1940, in San Bernardino, Calif. Kroc, impressed by the company’s production-line methods, purchased the chain from the McDonald brothers in 1961, and set about turning it into a burger leviathan.

The chain now includes about 30,000 outlets (14,000 in the United States) in 119 countries and employs about 1.7 million people.

By 1987, TIME was declaring “McDonald’s as a corporation looks more and more like a case study in how to concentrate on providing one service exceedingly well.” Despite all the grief it was taking from critics of its fatty, salt-laden fare and its monolithic corporate image, the company was still largely beloved. “McDonald’s has become such a pervasive reference point in American life that many consumers think of the company as a public institution—one that is often more reliable than the post office or the phone company,” wrote Stephen Koepp.

The company’s growth continued more or less unabated until after the 2008 recession, when the restaurant industry as a whole was hit hard—fast food included. As recently as 2005, TIME was describing fast food as a “quintessentially American dining experience” and a “perfect expression of those bedrock values of efficiency, thriftiness and speed.” Total spending on fast food had quadrupled in the preceding decade.

But even then, fast-food chains—McDonald’s definitely included—saw the writing on the wall, and were working to change their images. Consumers still wanted to dine out, but they were looking for a more pleasant experience, and healthier food. Stores were redesigned, menus were upgraded. Then the recession hit.

Fallen Arches,” read a headline in Fortune magazine last November. “Can McDonald’s Get Its Mojo Back?” The company “has risen to the top of the fast-food chain by being comfortably, familiarly, iconically ‘mass market’ and so ubiquitous as to be the Platonic ideal of ‘convenient,'” wrote Fortune‘s Beth Kowitt. “Neither of these selling points, however, is as high as it was even a decade ago on Americans’ list of dining priorities. A growing segment of restaurant goers are choosing ‘fresh and healthy’ over ‘fast and convenient,’ and McDonald’s is having trouble convincing consumers that it’s both. Or even can be both.”

MORE This Is Why Shake Shack Will Never Be McDonald’s

So much for “providing one service exceedingly well.” If people don’t want that one service, what’s a company to do? McDonald’s is still looking for answers, from making burgers more customizable to adding various new menu items (and subtracting others) to launching attention-getting promotional campaigns with varying degrees of success.

Kale, of all things, provides a nice microcosm for McDonald’s challenges. Several months back, the company made fun of the trendy, often-mocked “superfood” in TV advertisements. Over a camera close-up of the lettuce on a Big Mac, the narrator intoned: “This will never be kale.” Earlier this month, McDonald’s started test-marketing a breakfast bowl consisting of turkey sausage, egg whites, and … kale.

It seems that McDonald’s still hasn’t decided which one service it wants to provide exceedingly well. But America will likely be watching.

TIME Fast Food

Hardee’s New Patriotic Thickburger Looks Like a Delicious Monstrosity

No one man should have all this burger

There’s nothing more patriotic than a beef patty, a split hot dog and handful of greasy potato chips coming together to form a giant, caloric bomb. At least, that must be the thinking behind the new “Most American Thickburger,” coming soon to Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.

In addition to combining three sports stadium staples that are generally bad for you, the burger will also include ketchup, mustard, tomato, red onion, pickles and cheese. All for the low, low health cost of 1,030 calories and 64 grams of fat, according to the Associated Press.

The company is using sexual-but-patriotic imagery to promote the new meal, which arrives at restaurants May 20. The burger will cost $5.79, while a combo with fries and a drink (which will probably approach the total caloric intake a normal person is supposed to have in an entire day) will cost $8.29.

The new burger follows Carl’s Jr’s recent commercial stunt, which featured model Charlotte McKinney strutting around to promote a new “all-natural,” antibiotics-free patty

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Finally, Some Good News About Kids and Fast Food

a fast food tray full of hamburgers
Getty Images

Kids are eating fewer calories from burger, pizza and chicken restaurants

Fast food is rarely the harbinger of good news, but here’s some: kids are eating less of it. According to a new report published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the percentage of kids eating fast food on any given day has dropped, along with the number of calories they consume at certain fast-food joints.

Using data collected from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that back in 2003-2004, nearly 39% of American kids were eating fast food regularly. But in 2009-2010, about 33% of kids were eating it. In addition, children consumed fewer calories from burger, pizza and chicken fast-food restaurants. Calories from Mexican and sandwich fast-food restaurants remained stable.

MORE: This Is the Scary Amount of Pizza Kids Are Really Eating

“We’ve seen similar trends in adults, so we suspected the trend would be similar in children,” says study author Colin D. Rehm, a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. “What was surprising was the difference in trends by type of fast-food restaurant.”

The study didn’t look at why children were consuming fewer fast-food calories, but Rehm speculates that the trend is due to a combination of factors. “I think some are related to consumer preference and demand, and some are changes made by restaurants, which may include reducing the portion sizes, reformulating existing items or offering different items to potentially replace higher-calorie offerings,” he says. Less likely, he says, is the idea that people are eating less of their meals at each sitting.

During the eight-year period of the study, none of the restaurant types experienced a significant increase in the calories their children customers consumed.

“We saw a decrease in the number of calories per eating occasion, which suggests that a combination of consumer behavior and changes made by the restaurants can actually impact diet and change the amount of calories people are consuming,” says Rehm. “That’s promising. It means people are not unchangeable.”

The researchers acknowledge that their study looked purely at reported calorie consumption, and not on the quality of those calories. “If the calories are dropping and sodium, added sugar and refined grains are increasing, then we haven’t made much progress,” says Rehm. “We are going to need to drill deeper and figure out if the quality of the calories have changed or remained stable. The last thing we want to be doing is replace calories with even poorer quality calories.”

MONEY

Shake Shack Shock: Burger Joint Sees Setback in Shares After First Quarter

Shake Shack saw a dip in shares the day after posting its first quarterly earnings report.

MONEY Fast Food

McDonald’s Will Customize Your Burger — and Shrink Its Menu

The fast-food giant is rolling out several measures to combat slumping sales and regain what the company calls "burger leadership."

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